Proposal for a lexicon of Greek personal names

In January 1972, after taking preliminary soundings among colleagues, Fraser approached the then Secretary of the Academy, Derek Allen (Secretary 1969-73) with his idea for a lexicon of Greek personal names. Allen was very supportive, and, with his guidance and advice, the proposal was brought first to the Council of the Academy, which referred it to a specially appointed Sub-Committee for detailed consideration. From this Sub-Committee, a Memorandum with detailed recommendations for the adoption of the project went first to the relevant Sections of the Academy, and thence back to Council which, at its June meeting, authorised the establishment of the project, with Fraser as the Director, and Chairman of the Advisory Committee. The research programme began in October that year.

The following is an extract from the original proposal:

A lexicon of Greek personal names is a major desideratum in the field of lexicography, and, indirectly, of historical and literary studies in their widest sense. The only existing lexicon, that of (Pape-)Benseler, dates from 1863-1870, and thus belongs to a period before the development of modern epigraphical and papyrological studies. It is, nonethelesss, frequently cited as a reliable witness to the existence, frequency, and non-existence of proper names, with grossly distorting results. It has been well described by one eminent authority as 'cette ruine dangereuse'.

Benseler's work contains all proper names (Eigennamen) then known, not only personal names, but also geographical and mythological names, names of divinities, etc., together with a translation into German of the presumed meaning of the name.

Other works

Since Benseler's time there have been considerable advances in the analysis and classification of Greek proper names in several fields:
  • in the field of morphological analysis, principally by F. Bechtel in his Die Attischen Frauennamen (1902) and - the most important work in the field of Greek personal names - his Die historischen Personennamen des Griechischen (1917), which remains the one indispensible handbook for the formation and derivation of Greek names, but it is not a lexicon.

  • in the field of geographical distibution, which is increasingly taking the front place in the study of Greek personal names, as it has long done in the study of other European names. The works in this field of L. Zgusta and L. Robert are outstanding. (L. Zgusta, Die Personennamen Griechischer Stadte der nordlichen Schwarzmeerkuste (1955) and Kleinasiatische Personennamen (1964), and L. Robert, Les noms indigenes d'Asie Mineure (1963).) Zgusta's works are basically onomastica of the regions in question, while the work of Robert is a linguistic and historical analysis.

  • in the field of ethnography and religious and cultural history, both as to the origins of the names themselves and as to the light thrown by names on various aspects of social and cultural history. In this field, two works stand out: R. Hirzel's unfinished Der Name (1918) and F. Solmsen's posthumous Indogermanische Eigennamen als Spiegel der Kulturgeschichte (1922).

Meanwhile, names have accumulated since 1870 by thousands, if not tens of thousands, with the continuous publication of inscriptions and papyri. Many of these have been indexed in the various corpora of inscriptions (IG, TAM etc.) and in localised publications (of Miletus, Priene, Delphi etc.), and in the collections of papyri, and many more have been caught up in the indexes to the two main supplementary publications, Supplementum Epigraphicum Graecum, for inscriptions, and Sammelbuch (with its subsidiary, Namenbuch, and the new Onomasticon Alterum Papyrologicum) for papyri, but almost as many names remain unindexed and scattered throughout periodicals and literature. In addition a few local prosopographies have appeared e.g. of Argos, of Olynthos, of Macedonia etc.


The fundamental requirement is to build a new lexicon on the lines of Benseler embracing all the new material for personal names, but excluding geographical (and mythological?) items.



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